Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Wolverine defenders exploited by Spartans

ANN ARBOR - The way Ryan Van Bergen sees it, run defense is pretty simple in theory.

"Everyone is accountable for one gap," the University of Michigan defensive end said.

Gap integrity, as coaches like to call it, was sorely missing for the Wolverines during two lengthy Michigan State touchdown runs Saturday in the Spartans 34-17 win at Michigan Stadium.

When the first half ended, MSU had totaled 110 yards rushing, and of that figure, 102 were linked to two touchdown runs. On the first, Edwin Baker took advantage of the secondary's over pursuit on a 61-yard run in the first quarter. Le'Veon Bell did much of the same a drive later, scoring on a 41-yard jaunt.

On the day, MSU racked up 249 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. For its final touchdown, Larry Capers lowered his shoulder and plowed through a couple of Wolverine defenders for an eight-yard score.

"I think they have better players at some positions than the teams we've seen," Van Bergen said.

GOOD, BAD: Freshman Seth Broekhuizen converted his first career field goal, a 34-yarder, to put UM ahead 3-0. His second try of the day, of 42 yards, was blocked by Jerel Worthy as time expired in the first half.

"Little bit of a low snap," Rodriguez said. "Little bit of a low kick."

Broekhuizen is now 1 for 3 on field goals. As a team UM is 2 for 7.

HYDE: MSU senior safety Marcus Hyde, a Fostoria native, led the team with seven tackles, including six solo. Hyde also broke up a pass. Spartan All-American linebacker Greg Jones recorded five stops.

INJURIES: Martavious Odoms and James Rogers were carted off the field Saturday, and Rodriguez believes Odoms broke his foot. Mike Martin also suffered a lower body injury late in the contest, but Rodriguez didn't share specifics. As for Rogers, Rodriguez said the cornerback was suffering from cramps. When Rogers left the game, MSU immediately picked on his replacement, true freshman Cullen Christian. Mark Dell ran by Christian for a 41-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, prompting UM's coaches to bench Christian in favor of another true freshman, Terrence Talbott.

"When we had the freshman in there with the injury, we thought it was probably going to come early, and it did," Rodriguez said. "We just didn't execute well."

COACH D: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was back at work Saturday after missing the Spartans' last two games due to health issues. He suffered a heart attack shortly after MSU's overtime win against Notre Dame on Sept. 18 and missed subsequent games against Northern Colorado and Wisconsin while recovering from a heart procedure and a blood clot.

He was on the field with his team during pregame at Michigan Stadium, and then worked from the coaches' box in the press tower.

"I wanted to experience the atmosphere, too," Dantonio said, explaining why he led his team onto the field and didn't leave the sideline until seconds before kickoff. "I feel great. I continue to get stronger every day. I wouldn't have been on the field before the game if I didn't feel fine."

Dantonio was around his team throughout the past week, but credited his coordinators for establishing the game plan.

"We've done something that hasn't been done [by Michigan State] in 47 years and that's win three in a row against Michigan," Dantonio said. "That's special. I would not have wanted to miss it."

MIND GAMES: Eric Gordon, Michigan State's somewhat undersized (6-0, 232) but ferocious senior linebacker, spent a lot of his day keeping tabs on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. He finished with six tackles, one for a loss.

"It's tough because he kind of screws with your mind," Gordon said. "He's such a playmaker that you have to account for him all the time. In the second half, [Michigan's offense] spread the field even more and that makes it even more difficult to contain him."

Robinson came in averaging 181 yards per game rushing and was held to a season-low 86 net yards on the ground.

SCOUT STAR: You may never have heard of Tony Lippett, a true freshman wide receiver from Crockett High in Detroit. But he may have been Michigan State's MVP in practice this week, impersonating Robinson's speed and shiftiness.

"He turned in the best scout team performance I've ever seen," said MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. "Not just good … incredible."

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